Silk is so intricately linked with the history of China, that it seems as tho this extraordinary fibre and China could not have existed without each other. For centuries the highest quality of silk and embroidery has adorned the beautiful garments and palaces of the Chinese emperors and their families to distinguish them from those they ruled.
Chinese legend tells the story that Empress Hsi-Ling Lo-Tsu discovered silk when a cocoon dropped into her tea cup. Wishing to extract it from her drink, the young girl began to unwind the silk off the cocoon, and the secret of silk and silk cultivation became known. The secret of silk was confined to China for around 300 years until the opening of the silk road in around 1000 BC.
For many centuries, silk was China’s most valuable commodity. The spread of sericulture (silk cultivation) and the techniques of silk embroidery were so widespread throughout Ancient China that by the fifth century BC, more than 1.4 of the Chinese population were employed producing silk and creating silk embroideries. Throughout China many provinces became well known for their distinctive styles of embroidery.
This was all very separate from the development of the regional embroideries of the ‘minorities’ within China. The ruling Han Chinese make up over 90% of the population, the ‘minorities’ 55 official groups make up the balance. Where the eastern half of China dates back about two millennia, the western part is far more recent having only been incorporated around 300 years ago. With their different physical appearance, darker skin and distinctive customs the Han saw them as the Other, as ‘barbarians’.
These minorities, probably because of the isolation of their communities have produced very distinctive embroideries and textileswhich we will continue to explore through blogs, textiles and tours to the regions.
Soulful Stitches is offering an exclusive range of textile tours for very small groups. This affords us the opportunity to take you to places and to get to know the local people in ways just not possible when you are travelling with a larger Group. Our first tour to Guizhou in China, in February 2018 will be for a maximum of 5 people. You will be accompanied by Textile Expert Gail Hawes, and a local guide who speaks many of the local languages, giving an intimate perspective of life and festivals of the different minority groups.
'The First Monday in May' Movie
Follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's most attended fashion exhibition in history, "China: Through The Looking Glass," an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton.
A fascinating history of Chinese Formal and Informal costume by David Rosier